What Are The Best Lights For Outdoor Sports Events?

Outdoor sporting event attendees do not give much thought to the lights overhead illuminating the playing field after dark, and why should they? The focus is on the field and the action going on there rather than the action going on above the field. Chances are that if you’ve recently attended a sporting event at night, the game that unfolded before you was illuminated by metal halide lighting.

What is metal halide lighting?

Metal halide lighting emerged around 2005 and is considered today to be some of the best lights for outdoor sports events. It is one of the fastest growing segments of the commercial lighting industry, and there are good reasons for this. Most of those reasons relate to metal halide lighting performance, which represents a huge improvement over its predecessor, mercury vapor lights.

Metal halide lights are electric lights with illumination produced by sending an electric arc through a mixture of gases and compounds of bromine or iodine; these are the metal halides. While this method of light generation is similar to the mercury vapor approach, the light produced in the metal halide arc tube is of higher intensity and has better color presentation. The intense light produced by metal halide lamps is nearly twice as powerful as the mercury vapor lights and roughly five times as intense as incandescent lighting.

In terms of composition, metal halide lamps consist of an arc tube where the gases and halides are contained, which is either ceramic or fused quartz and surrounded by a larger glass bulb that has been specially coated to filter out ultraviolet light. This outer bulb also serves to protect the interior components and conserve generated heat. Since metal halide lamps are some of the most efficient lamps at producing high intensity illumination, they are now considered to be one of the best lights for outdoor sports events, especially since they can be relied upon to have an operating life of between 6,000 to 15,000 hours, and often even more than that.

Operating Characteristics

To generate all that high-intensity illumination, metal halide lamps require a transformer to supply them with a specific and steady flow of electricity, usually between 175 watts to 1,500 watts. This wattage depends on the intended use for the lamp, and the transformer wattage must match the lamp wattage. For example, a 250-watt lamp must be associated with a 250-watt transformer or it will not operate.

As with any outdoor illumination setup, there is a certain percentage of light loss that is disseminated into the atmosphere and not concentrated on the arena or stadium below. To minimize this, lamps can be fitted with visors that reduce any “up-lighting” that would otherwise be lost.

When metal halide lamps are first turned on, it takes a short time for pressure to build up in the arc tube before full intensity is achieved, so if there is a sudden disruption to the power source, it will take time for that pressure to rebuild to the maximum lighting intensity. If you have ever seen the stadium lights go dark at a football game, you’ll know that lamps like these take up to five minutes to warm up again to full intensity.

Metal halide lamps have more uses than outdoor sporting events of course. They are commonly used to illuminate parking lots and shopping centers for the same reasons they are so useful in lighting outdoor sporting events: They produce intense light more effectively than any other outdoor lighting strategy.